The Year the Boston Bruins Died
Growing up, I was always been a Boston Bruins fan. Cam Neely, Andy Moog, Craig Janney, Ray Bourque - these were the most recognizable names that one associated with the Bruins in their glory days of the late 1980s and early '90s.
The Bruins of that era went to two Stanley Cup Finals, played in four Wales Conference Finals, won three regular-season division titles, and one Presidents' Trophy as the league's top team. And while they failed to win a Cup, they came so close a few times, especially in 1989-90 and 1990-91.
Yet, today, the Bruins team of that era has been largely forgotten. Sadly, you'll never see any of their games on ESPN Classic or The NHL Network. These networks mostly care about Gretzky, Lemieux, Roy, and Messier - and so they should - and also games from the last five years. (Why would NHL games from 2002 or '04 be on Classic when there are hundreds of better games from earlier eras that could be aired? I guess this is a topic that will be dissected in a future article.)
However, I found a very old tape in the basement just recently: Game One of the 1993 Adams Division Semi-Finals between Boston and the Buffalo Sabres. This was the last great year the Bruins had, ever. Period.
The Bruins had trailed Montreal during the regular season until catching fire in the last two months of the season, going on a hot streak to end the season and vaulting past the Habs to win the division title. Buffalo, on the other hand, had limped into the playoffs with seven straight losses, and was a heavy underdog in the series.
Andy Moog was facing his old teammate, Grant Fuhr, who was now with the Sabres. Though Fuhr had always gotten the headlines for winning those Cups with the Oilers, he was now a washed-up goalie whose better days were behind him. (And anyone could have won those Cups for the Oilers of the '80s - again, a topic that could be discussed later.) Moog had the upper-hand though, this time around, having gone 3-0-0 with two shutouts against Fuhr and the Sabres in the final weeks of the regular season.
It is hard to name Game One of any series the "turning point", but in this case, it felt like it. The tone was set in the first period, when, with the Bruins on a power play, the puck went down the ice to Moog. He came out of the net to clear it behind the net as a Sabres player - Dave Hannan - was chasing for the puck. Moog, unfortunately, banged it off the side of the net instead of around the boards. The puck came out to Hannan, who put it into the empty net. 1-0.
Buffalo then took a 2-0 lead, but Boston tied it in the second period. With time winding down in the second, the Bruins gave the puck away and Alexander Mogilny had a partial breakaway. He didn't miss. 3-2 Buffalo with just five seconds left.
In the third period, Ray Bourque, of all people, had the puck behind his own net, then decided to make a long pass out of the zone. Mogilny intercepted it in the slot, skated in on Moog all alone, and scored. 4-2.
Bad giveaways by both Moog and Bourque had certainly cost the Bruins here, but there was more to come. Boston tied it at 4-4 with two late goals, but Moog again had to bail out his defence, as he had to stop Mogilny on another breakaway, and also breakaways by Yuri Khmylev and Pat LaFontaine.
The game went into overtime, and Mogilny, looking for the hat trick, again had a breakaway, when he danced around the Bruins' defence and got in on Moog. Moog turned him aside.
Then ex-Bruin Bob Sweeney, who had zero goals for the Bruins in the 1990 playoffs, scored when his shot beat a screened Moog. No chance for Moog, as there was a crowd in front of him and he couldn't see the puck. Buffalo 5, Boston 4.
Why did the Bruins lose?
1. Bad giveaways by Moog and Bourque put the Bruins behind the eight-ball for sure.
2. Lack of defence - as they gave Mogilny far too many breakaways and chances.
3. The ex-Bruin factor. Sweeney, who was dumped by Boston before the season, surely wanted to be a factor against his former club. That's the way it goes, I suppose, the former player comes back to haunt his old team.
Alas, the Bruins would not win any game in the series. People remember the Brad May goal in Game Four that ended the series. People remember Moog giving up the goal. But surprisingly, few people remember that May had danced past Bourque to score the winner.
Moog was made the scapegoat and was traded. Since then, the Bruins have won just two playoff series. With Moog, they enjoyed all that playoff success as mentioned above. (He won eight playoff series during that era, compared to the two that the Bruins have won since then.)
Of course, it should be noted that no one blamed Bourque for his giveaways in Games One and Four, and for his penalty in OT in Game Three (which led to the Sabres' winning goal just seconds after the star D-man went to the box). Had he played better, the Bruins might have won the series.
Another interesting note was that Boston's Adam Oates, who led the team in goals that year, was shut out in the playoffs.
Alexander Mogilny, who had never scored any playoff goals before the series, got breakaways in every game in this series, and capitalized on most of those chances.
Ah yes, the 1993 season was definitely the year the Bruins died. Without Moog, they just haven't had any kind of decent goaltending. Jon Casey, Jim Carey, Bill Ranford, Blaine Lacher, Byron Dafoe, and the rest were - and have been - unable to give B's any kind of solid netminding to contend for a championship after '92-93.
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